Ebert joins the predictions scramble

Posted by · 3:12 pm · January 30th, 2010

Quinton Aaron and Sandra Bullock in The Blind SideWith less than 72 hours until Oscar nominations are announced, prediction lists are coming through thick and fast. Kris and I will have our final predictions up on Monday, while Gerard’s technical picks will be scattered throughout the weekend. (I’ll also enter dreamland for a while and offer up my fantasy ballot at some point.)

Roger Ebert, meanwhile, is the latest big name to join the pile. As we’ve come to expect from the critic, his predictions are a blend of the rationally reasoned and the borderline insane. (Werner Herzog’s “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” has an outside shot at a Best Picture nomination, apparently. Right.)

Most interesting to me, however, is his conviction in “The Blind Side,” which he labels a can’t-miss Best Picture nominee. (He also calls Sandra Bullock a “sure thing” to win Best Actress.)

I’ve been wondering myself whether the megahit could show up in The Ten on Tuesday morning, surprising (and enraging) a lot of pundits in the process. As lightweight populist contenders go, it’s certainly baitier than “The Hangover,” albeit less critically tolerated. As I said on Wednesday, there’s just no way of telling which way those final three spots will go.

Meanwhile, his Twitter followers will already know that Ebert strongly opposes the idea of a Best Picture win for “Avatar,” in spite of his own four-star review of the film. In case you hadn’t heard, however, he restates his case here:

I suppose it’s the front-runner. If it won, that will be a sad day. Yes, it’s a phenomenon and I loved the experience. But the best film? Not compared to those other titles, it isn’t. To be seen to advantage, it needs big-screen 3-D. A DVD viewing will remove much of its impact, leaving many home viewers asking, What was the big deal?

Check out his predictions here. Other pundits who have weighed in in the past few days include Movieline’s Jack Matthews, indieWIRE’s Peter Knegt and Scott Feinberg.

→ 34 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

34 responses so far

  • 1 1-30-2010 at 3:17 pm

    Andrew2 said...

    Cant wait to see your fantasy ballot Guy, complete with Bright Star love!!!

  • 2 1-30-2010 at 3:23 pm

    med said...

    Roger Ebert is the worst prognosticator on the planet.

  • 3 1-30-2010 at 3:30 pm

    tony d said...

    I never talk Ebert’s predictions seriously – he somehow forgot that Streep did win Best Actress at the Globes, because SAG wins certainly helped Ruby Dee, Julie Christie, Paul Giamatti, Eddie Murphy and Christopher Walken win the Oscar recently – Ebert’s knack for picking nominees and winner are as spot on as his review for Knowing

  • 4 1-30-2010 at 3:36 pm

    med said...

    The Blind Side as a BP nominee would certainly leave the Academy with zero remaining credibilty.

  • 5 1-30-2010 at 4:06 pm

    Andrew R. said...

    Let’s not pretend he’s never right, he called Crash after all

  • 6 1-30-2010 at 4:21 pm

    Craig said...

    I didn’t think anyone still thought Clint had a chance in hell for a director slot?

  • 7 1-30-2010 at 4:22 pm

    david said...

    I know there is a great deal of passion for The Blind Side, so it wouldn’t suprise me in the least if if nabbed a spot.

  • 8 1-30-2010 at 4:24 pm

    david said...


    I share Ebert’s love for the Herzog film.

  • 9 1-30-2010 at 4:26 pm

    voland said...

    I liked Knowing. The disturbing, silly and over-the-top ending was fantastic.

  • 10 1-30-2010 at 4:44 pm

    Mike said...

    Ebert’s been completely senile for nigh on a decade now. Yeah he got Crash right, but that wasn’t based on any actual knowledge of the awards, it was based on his hailing it as the greatest movie ever made at the time (four years later of course, he’s forgotten all about it, and now The Hurt Locker is the greatest movie of all time).

  • 11 1-30-2010 at 4:47 pm

    Gustavo H.R. said...

    KNOWING, IMO, is a great sci-fi mystery. And THE BLIND SIDE could get that sentimental, populist spot, yes.

    Ebert is not as clueless as you think, boys.

  • 12 1-30-2010 at 4:48 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    “Roger Ebert is the worst prognosticator on the planet.”

    Check You Tube – He predicted quite rightly 3 out of the 4 eventual acting Oscars of 1989!
    He and Gene were both wrong on best supporting actor.

  • 13 1-30-2010 at 4:53 pm

    med said...

    In 1989 he was still coherent…

  • 14 1-30-2010 at 4:57 pm

    Anna said...

    Ebert gives 4 stars to practically everything. It doesn’t mean anything.

  • 15 1-30-2010 at 4:58 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Check You Tube – He predicted quite rightly 3 out of the 4 eventual acting Oscars of 1989!”

    I think Ebert’s as good a prognosticator as many. But is that such an extraordinary stat?

  • 16 1-30-2010 at 5:05 pm

    Loyal said...

    It does bother me somewhat that Ebert continues to downplay Avatar. He is afterall the same critic who wrote this:

    “Avatar” is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It’s a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings”

    “Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film.”

    “I’ve complained that many recent films abandon story telling in their third acts and go for wall-to-wall action. Cameron essentially does that here, but has invested well in establishing his characters so that it matters what they do in battle and how they do it. There are issues at stake greater than simply which side wins.”

    “It takes a hell of a lot of nerve for a man to stand up at the Oscarcast and proclaim himself King of the World. James Cameron just got re-elected.”

  • 17 1-30-2010 at 5:06 pm

    Andrew2 said...

    Given the reports about some voters having trouble coming up with 10, it is those films with acting noms like Blind Side and Crazy Heart that have a real chance of sneaking in

  • 18 1-30-2010 at 5:46 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    Andrew2: You might include “A Single Man” as a possibility as well. Black academy members have their obvious choice (“Precious”), British members have theirs (“An Education”), but gay members–if these things are done tribally–have nothing else to vote for.

  • 19 1-30-2010 at 5:47 pm

    med said...

    So you should add The Messenger, Julie & Julia, It’s Complicated, The Last Station, A Single Man.

    Also, I think Star Wars and The Hangover are dark horses…

  • 20 1-30-2010 at 5:56 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I agree, Loyal. Very disheartening to see the man who so praised the film all the sudden turn his back on it because of some petty, inevitable backlash.
    Shame, Ebert. At least he still sticks to his guns about “Crash,” which he has certainly not forgot about, Mike.

  • 21 1-30-2010 at 5:59 pm

    Chris138 said...

    I agree with Ebert about viewing Avatar when it’s on DVD. Just won’t be the same.

    And as much as I loved Werner Herzog’s take on the Bad Lieutenant, there is no way in hell it will be getting nominated.

  • 22 1-30-2010 at 8:23 pm

    Kay said...

    couldn’t agree more with Avatar, it’s not best picture material and not his best work. Take away the 3D and you’ve got nothing but a rather dull story. Inglorious Basterds and hurt locker or even up in the air are 10X better than Avatar. Great that it is making money for the industry, but please, it’s nowhere near the best picture, not by a longshot and if people sincerely take a look at all the best pictures, they would see that. Star Trek and District 9 of the same genre were more exciting and I would choose those over Avatar.

  • 23 1-30-2010 at 9:19 pm

    Michel said...

    I’m more inclined to believe that with his first Avatar review Ebert succumbed to the sensory fest and the overhype, and now he has had some time to get some critical distance and judge it integrally. It’s funny how the Avatar lovers deem this natural process as ‘petty backlash’ though.

  • 24 1-30-2010 at 10:28 pm

    red_wine said...

    Loyal, Ebert did not put Avatar on his Top 10 afterall, just a special mention for tremendous special effects.

    If you see the most hyped film of the decade before everyone else(like critics do) you can feel a bit like, “OMG what have I seen” only to be replaced by more sober feelings later on.

    Alas Avatar is eternally doomed. The script will not become better on repeat viewings, neither will the dialogue become any less cheesier or the characters more interesting or the film more engaging. The film is done. Repeat viewings might make you a bit tolerant to its unfortunate shortcomings, a great film you will still call it not.

  • 25 1-30-2010 at 10:29 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Love how you speak in such absolutes. Makes you the only one coming off desperate.

  • 26 1-30-2010 at 11:42 pm

    Beau said...

    Enormously frustrated by his downplaying of ‘Avatar’. I don’t care if it’s deemed populist entertainment or if the experience is diminished by watching it on DVD (what epic isn’t, honestly? Certainly ‘2001’, De Mille pics, LOTR play better in a darkened theatre), the film itself is a stronger, tighter and all together more accessible than nearly any other proposed for the category.

    I’m generally not the first to race to defend big-budget epics (most tend to annoy) but I found so much heart in ‘Avatar’ – I found passion, energy, optimism and what I FEEL, in my humble opinion, was a commentary on our warlike tendencies as Americans and as a capitalist society. Call bullshit all you want, but the film moved me in a way, leading me to believe that it might be the most effective anti-war film to have been released in years. (It’s certainly the most expensive of all time.)

    That’s the way I read it. You may not have. But for me? I for objectivity in documentaries; I look for subjectivity and a strong point of view in my films. ‘The Hurt Locker’ tried to position itself as a film that had no political agenda, that merely wanted to show its audience the effects war can have on a psyche, what it leads its victims to become. Not a revolutionary concept (even more tired than ‘Avatar’s’, folks) and if you’re going to explore the psyche of a group of people in a war, personalize them, make them breathe on the page. Because all I saw, was standard cliches speaking. NOTHING MORE.

    It’s difficult to make a war film, I understand that. But if we’re talking about the greats? Apocolypse Now? Three Kings? All films made with a director’s style that personalized it, viewed the events from a perspective that wasn’t objective, because artists are not meant to be such. I didn’t know what the fuck Kathryn Bigalow was trying to say with ‘The Hurt Locker’ other than ‘War is a drug’ and ‘It destroys lives’. It doesn’t have a voice. ‘Avatar’ does. And THAT, for me, makes it the stronger film.

    I like a film with a voice.

  • 27 1-31-2010 at 1:13 am

    Remy said...

    Ebert’s problem is that he lets his own feeligs get in the way of his predictions.

    He mentions “Bad Lieutenant” as a possibility, but fails to mention “Star Trek” or “District 9”, which have much better odds, but which he doesn’t like as much. He thinks Streep definitely isn’t going to win, and he seems to be saying it mainly because he didn’t like “Julie and Julia”.

    Also, he picks Peter Sarsgaard as a likely nominee, but fails to mention Stanley Tucci (who starred in two movies he didn’t like), Matt Damon or Christopher Plummer.

    But I don’t blame him. I don’t think he follows all the precursors THAT closely, and I doubt he spends a lot of time on Oscar blogs.

    What does bother me is how he suddenly seems to lose passion for movies at awards time that he wrote strongly enthusiastic reviews of when they were released. This year’s example is “Avatar” – how can he re write a review like that and give it four stars first, and then suddenly be so strongly against it come awards time?

    And that comment that the Acadmy will make their choice based on money is unfair, and completely unwarranted. You only have to look as far as “The Dark Knight” missing out last year to realize that.

    If a movie he singled out for his annual “Jury Prize”, and which he says he loves, wins Best Picture, shouldn’t he seem reasonably happy about that, even if it beats a movie he liked more?

    And he did the same with “The Aviator”, “Brokeback Mountain” and “No Country for Old Men” in previous years, when they were up against his respective favorites. First he wrote nearly extatic reviews, but once they were up against movies he liked more, he seemed to no longer find them that great.

  • 28 1-31-2010 at 1:18 am

    SHAAAARK said...

    Hey, don’t hate on Ebert. He’s made some mistakes in recent years, but to call him senile is to discredit a fierce and passionate advocate of film. Unlike some people, he truly loves film, and his passion bleeds into his writing. But yeah, he’s not a good Oscar prognosticator. Maybe because he cares too much? He did call Ellen Page, and the whole Juno thing in general, and I think it wouldn’t have had the support it did if Ebert hadn’t thrown his weight behind it.

  • 29 1-31-2010 at 3:02 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Black academy members have their obvious choice (”Precious”), British members have theirs (”An Education”), but gay members–if these things are done tribally–have nothing else to vote for.”

    I like to think things aren’t done that tribally. On a side note, the harshest critics of “A Single Man” that I’ve met happen to be gay.

  • 30 1-31-2010 at 5:37 am

    Michel said...

    Beau, I think you and I saw The Hurt Locker in different ways. For me, THL was about how for some people the intense life of war, even risking one’s life every day, was still better than their unfulfilled lives back in America. Its political agenda was to use the war as an counterpoint to poverty in America and to offer it as a possible explanation for the people that keep enlisting in the army. And that was a far more sincere point than the cavalcade of childish, dumb clichés displayed on Avatar, where the green and anti-war message was very poorly conveyed. If you don’t believe that, google the endless tirades of Avatar fans that talk about their depression of not being able to live in the actual Pandora or to make love to their wives due to too much fantasizing about Neytiri.

    When looking for social/political commentary, I look for mature films, not disney-like flicks.

  • 31 1-31-2010 at 9:57 am

    Beau said...


    Really interesting take on THL; I like the idea that it may have been made to explain more about the male psyche when it’s affected by and immersed in war or combat, but it didn’t read that way to me. Watching the film, she has to be commended for spectacular action sequences but the message for me was absent and the film did come off in its storyline as pedestrian and thinly drawn as Pierce’s ‘Stop Loss’, among others. ‘Avatar’ did drive its message home but in a way that I never felt was forceful or pandering; it simply stated its cause and told a story. Green films, in general, tend to feel like drawn out propoganda and annoy the audience ( ‘Wall-E’ is one exception) but this affected me on a different level. I can’t comment on if ‘The Hurt Locker’ will find its audience or if it will stand alongside the great war films, and box office should not be a clear indication of a film’s quality, so that mindset needs to go right out the window. The simple fact of the matter is that THL did not reach me; its message evaded me, its characters perturbed me, its story bored me. Many claim to believe that they found the great Iraq film right here. I’m still on the prowl.

    As for Disneyfied politics, I feel that that does the majesty of ‘Avatar’ a great injustice. Is it a perfect film? Not in the slightest. But it is an ambitious picture and a heartfelt one, and it spoke to me. Speaking about the way it affected others to consider suicide or refuse to make love to their wives is, to me, as trivial a matter as a picture’s box office; if we gauge the way others view a film to prompt and defend our own take on it, it’s just as easy to say that no one liked THL because no one saw it. It’s a risky generalization and it does a disservice to the way we feel. We can agree and disagree with one another, but it’s the maintaining of your own faith in whatever the subject/object is that is the real trial, and the real accomplishment.

    I probably just spiraled on from point to point, but I felt a need to say that. And for my money. The film that should be walking away with everything? Campion’s ‘Bright Star’. Beautiful, breathtaking picture.

  • 32 1-31-2010 at 12:01 pm

    david said...

    Just watched Bright Star last night. I found the plot paper thin, and the film tedious at best. I couldn’t find much to like about Fanny’s character, and the overall tone was quite dreary and cold. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, boy dies, credits roll over some Keat’s poetry. How charming.

  • 33 1-31-2010 at 3:49 pm

    Ed said...

    I will just say this: Sandra Bullock will not win Best Actress. It will be Meryl Streep!

  • 34 1-31-2010 at 7:41 pm

    Michel said...


    It’s “Michel”, actually, don’t worry ;)

    The main difference between our experiences with Avatar has to be tha I didn’t see any ‘majesty’ there and that I do think it was pandering its message.

    I’m quite jaded to unimaginative and beaten-to-death common places:
    1. The indigenous humanoids that look weird yet all have athletic chiseled and slim bodies (with gratuitous boobs).
    2. The tribe princess already to a highly distrustful yet honorable-when-compare-to-the-humans warrior.
    3. Deus ex-machina-maker world spirit Gaia– I mean, Eiwa… even with a giant ‘world tree’ included.

    But what I am most jaded about are simplistic, incosistent and pandered messages:

    My own wrong and misguided expectations about the movie led me to believe that we would see the humans struggling to get resources in the planet because the Earth was destroyd and it was highly necessary (and that would have made some complex and compelling dynamics). Of course, I was wrong to expect that, but what I got was the exact opposite: private army working for a corporation that wants to destroy a peaceful nature-loving race out of greed… jarheads under the command of a blood-thirsty ‘toughest of men’ cliché. Yes, that was pandering. It was also pandering to see the all-life-loving Na’vi to inmediatly shift gears into slaughtering the humans when their land is at stake… because guys, now ‘land’ is more important the ‘life’, didn’t you get the memo? And the concept of Gaia–I mean, Eiwa, an entity that has been told to us to never take sides, even leads a huge, cringeworthy deus-ex-machina when sends all the beasts charging down to tip the scales of the climax battle… Really.

    Well, yeah, as a moviegoer I’m much too bit jaded now to swallow that stuff now in my life. If that’s not pandering, I don’t know what is. I can think at least two other animation films where these concepts are given to us in far more tought-provoking yet simple ways, in more original wrapping paper:

    in “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, the nickelodeon tv show about a monk kid from a pacifist people who must go through the difficult journey of reuniting his pacificist education with the task of channeling a spirit that is meant to destroy a ruthless and war-mongering Empire.

    2. “Mononoke-hime”, which I presume you watched and I strongly believe it is ALL what Avatar should have been: complex, ripping war story with a green message and ravishingly original visuals beyond your wildest dreams.

    Those things actually inspired awe in me and egaged me emotionally… whereas in Avatar all the emotional immersion I had was a bit of goosebumps when Jake declares war, which faded away pretty quickly.

    Avatar was a sensory fest with state-of-the-art digital effects; I don’t think it should be treated like anything else.